Herculean Displacement

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Science  06 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5625, pp. 1477
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5625.1477d

Italy's archaeological treasures trace not only the waxing and waning of human culture but also natural events such as earthquakes. The displacement of the wall of the Coliseum and the rotation of the Colonna Antonina in Rome are well-known examples of earthquakes deciphered through archaeoseismology. Some of the more damaging and large-magnitude earthquakes occur in the Apennine Mountains.

Galli and Galadini inventoried damage to the sanctuary of Hercules built during the 4th century B.C. in the southern Apennines by the Samnites (before their subjugation by the Romans). Floors warped by fault scarps and walls offset by fault displacements were associated with a Matese fault system earthquake, which occurred in 290 B.C. Additional damage was correlated with historically recorded earthquakes in 346, 1456, and 1805 A.D. Adding the offset from the previously unrecognized 290 B.C. event yields a slip rate of 0.9 mm per year between 290 B.C. and 1805 A.D.; this high rate is symptomatic of an active fault system that bears watching.—LR

Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1266 (2003).

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